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Know Your Audience: Best Practices for Doing PR in China

Given its fast growing economy, China attracts businesses of all sizes, and many companies believe that they need to compete in the Chinese market if their company is going to be a leader in their industry. It is a country that is developing at a rapid pace—and it’s the uniqueness of its culture and history that makes it one of today’s most promising and challenging markets for the practice of public relations. Below are some best practices to consider before jumping into the Chinese market.

A common newcomer’s mistake is not truly understanding your Chinese audience. China is a giant country with more than 160 cities each with a population of over 1 million, and there are substantial regional differences in culture, consumer behavior and language. Just as it wouldn’t make sense to apply a single strategy across all of the countries in South America, we wouldn’t recommend bucketing all of China into one PR program. Depending on whom you want to reach in China and where they are geographically, it is common practice to have five to ten variations on a campaign tailored to the local markets.

Especially when it comes to foreign products or technologies, a strong brand is very important to the Chinese consumer. Strategic multi-platform marketing approaches through public relations and advertisements are recommended when first entering the Chinese market. It is has become increasingly hard to maintain consumer loyalty in China, and China’s shoppers tend to be even more opinionated and outspoken than their American and European counterparts. The initial investment of a strong marketing campaign, with a special emphasis on social media, goes a long way in creating brand awareness in an ultra brand-conscious country.

Social Media:
The Chinese consumers rely heavily on the Internet for doing their own research prior to making their purchases. However, it is often the information from others that is frequently most important in shaping their buying decisions… and social media is playing an increasingly critical role here. According to a 2013 study by Accenture, more than 90 percent of Chinese consumers use social media and microblogs to learn about companies’ products or service delivery and to help them make buying decisions. And the popular American sites, Facebook and Twitter, aren’t the “local” social media platforms. They’ve been replaced by popular Chinese social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat. These new types of social platforms have critical mass users and include features directly tied to branding, sales and e-commerce.

China is a dynamic economy with a lot of opportunity for foreign companies… if done right. Before you dive into all-things-China on the PR front, remember that the successful companies are the ones that adapt best practices to the Chinese market and have a pulse on the local markets they are targeting.

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Darah Roslyn

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